With countless examples of bad email campaigns, it’s quite clear many marketers get the basics wrong. There are four types of email marketing and your choice could dictate the success of your campaign.
Direct marketers maintain that email is a ROI-rendering power tool. But brands often just don't see the point - especially when open rates are averaging 10-20%.
So, where's the pot 'o gold?
To my mind, it lies in one of four types of email marketing:
- Life-cycle marketing
- Content Marketing
- Administrative email
- And promotions
The success of the campaign depends on choosing the one that best speaks to your digital objectives. It may seem to be a basic first step, but this is often where I see email campaigns fail. You have to be very clear on the purpose of your campaign, and which type of email communication will best achieve this.
To keep a customer or client, you need to build a relationship with them. Most brands understand the value of being able to contact their customers - via social media, email, mobile or even direct mail (yes, many South African brands still find good ol' posting a reliable contact channel). As Christopher Penn so rightly states here, the problem with social media is that you don’t own it. So yes, by all means, collecting your clients' social media contact details is vital to a comprehensive communication strategy, but storing alternative contact points – for channels that you can “own” - is equally important. That's where your email database and life-cycle (or CRM) marketing becomes important.
Examples of life-cycle marketing include loyalty programme communications, welcome or birthday messages, rewards emails, etc. A rightly timed message can make the customer experience that much easier and more rewarding.
The welcome email below from Innocent welcomes the newly registered account, sends them links to any contact points they may need, tells them what communication they can expect to receive from the brand, and gives them the link they need to confirm their account details.
Newsletters are often the default option for brands wanting to implement an email strategy. The problem then is that these newsletter campaigns often stem from a decision to implement email, rather than from the decision to implement a content marketing strategy.
Newsletters must form part of a well thought-through content marketing plan if they are to maintain successful results. This means aligning them with your alternative content channels (social networks, blog, website, or third party publishers).
US-based Learn Vest runs a very good weekly newsletter with content related to personal finance management – an array of tips, articles, surveys and tools are standard in these newsletters.
The example below is the third email in their 10-day email course on “Taking Control of Your Budget” – another interesting content marketing tactic:
If you don't have the time or resources to a) research what kind of content resonates with your target audience, b) plan an editorial timeline and create the content accordingly, or c) to integrate and cross purpose the content across your other content channels, a newsletter campaign might not be the ideal solution for your business. Instead, you might find more efficient ways to use life-cycle or transactional emails to provide sufficient branding opportunities.
Probably one of the most successful - and useful - forms of email marketing, administrative emails include any user notifications or transactional emails.
Note the definition of transactional emails: "Transactional email in 2012 includes any email triggered by a user’s interaction with a web application, including signups, password changes, check-ins, notifications, and friend of follower requests." These are often triggered by a user action, making them timely and relevant to the recipient - something appreciated by those of us who deal with cluttered inboxes daily. I could list examples for days, but thought the infographic below on application-triggered emails (which predominantly consist of notifications and transactional messaging), is too cool to miss:
By taking advantage of these moments of user engagement you can also create cross-and up-selling opportunities - although I do think the simple brand appreciation that can be generated by a well-timed customer service response is an asset in itself.
Hands up if you love a freebie! (Or a discount, a 2-for-1 special, a 'daily deal' -Groupon sound familiar to you?) Yes, it's tried and trusted - and it does work.
Probably only for certain die-hard customers, but for those die-hard brand fans who look forward to receiving your promotions, it's a true value-add. I believe promotions work best for retail brands, although the occasional timely promotion from service brands can deliver good results, too.
Bonus note: If you're using promotions to "sell" subscribers on your newsletter it might be worth re-examining your content marketing strategy.
Marks & Spencer send regular "online exclusive" promotions to their online shoppers. The example below does a good job of announcing their "summer savings", as well as promoting their new mobile app to shoppers:
Mapping out your emails and categorising the email interactions you send can help you get a clear picture of how your subscriber relationship progresses.
It’s no surprise that brands become frustrated with email marketing when they feel they can't see the return on their campaigns. However the DMA stats on the ROI of email aren't a thumb suck. It's simply a matter of giving some thought to what kind of email campaign will best speak to your audience and objectives.